“Purple is the colour of the small hours, those moments of transition…Between dreary and sublime. Like rainbows, white nights draw on the purple at their borders.” Guillaume Désanges
Last year, I attended the inaugural White Night Melbourne and enjoyed it so much that I was super-keen to go again this year. The event, which is an all-night festival of light, art and performances, attracted 300,000 last year (at a time when it was relatively unknown). This year, from early reports, 500,000 people flocked into the city, and it was again a wonderful event.
There were musical performances in Federation Square and the Bourke Street mall, and a concert stage in La Trobe Street. There was synchronised swimming at the Melbourne City Baths and still-life drawing in the National Gallery of Victoria. Also, the short stories from the film version of Tim Winton’s The Turning were being shown at various locations around the city.
This was particularly exciting for me because my cousin is one of the Directors involved with The Turning. It has been wonderful to see this film receive critical acclaim in the last six months and for it to have another chance to shine at this event. Unfortunately, my cousin’s chapter was one of those in a ‘mystery location’ and I couldn’t find it. It’s just as well I’ve already seen it 🙂
Here are some of the highlights from my long White Night.
The letters spelling WHITE NIGHT are prominently illuminated on the Princes Bridge overlooking the Yarra River and it’s a work in progress throughout the night.
“Building on Anna Cordingley’s initial concept and design [from 2013], contemporary artist Fred Fowler and his team adapt the idea of a durational artwork as the letters return with their facades from monochrome to colour. As the night unfolds … the Princes Bridge is energized in an otherwise darkened environment as a never seen before collaborative colouring-in project is activated.”
We arrived at this installation quite late (around midnight) so a lot of artwork had been done, but there were two people still adding small details. It looked amazing.
We waited over an hour to wander through Purple Rain, but it wasn’t really a hardship. We could hear the music from the stage on La Trobe Street and it was great to watch the crowds wandering along the streets. Everyone was in such high spirits and the city had an awesome vibe.
“Purple Rain is a breathtaking visual and sound installation that entices you to pick up an umbrella and wander through mauve-coloured rain. Referencing the high kitsch rock ‘n’ roll film and song by infamous musician Prince, French artist Pierre Ardouvin literally interprets the 80s melancholic spirit with a piercing soundtrack to match.”
While it did seem slightly absurd to queue up for a walk in the rain – especially for Melburnians – it was wonderful in a surreal way. I also got to have fun with my camera.
Purple Rain and Voices were the two things I’d highlighted on my program as ‘must-sees’, but after queuing for such a long time at Purple Rain I wasn’t sure we’d have the time to queue for Voices. Fortunately, we walked past the entrance to the Town Hall at just the right moment … as they were letting the next group of people enter. I think we might have inadvertently jumped the queue because when we exited there was this massive line-up that we hadn’t seen on our way in. Luck was on our side and I’m so glad I got to experience this.
“Voices is a multifaceted choral installation work capturing the stories of young Australians from diverse backgrounds in a unique and powerful way. Members of Australia’s internationally renowned national children’s Gondwana Voices, aged 11-16, record an important moment in their lives or of one of their ancestors in a small, handmade, theatrically lit diorama. Video projections of each child are screened as they sing their own composition based on their special story.”
We wandered in amongst the screens watching and listening as, one by one, the children’s voices came together, culminating in an amazing finale (composed by Dan Walker). It was so wonderful … and for me, the highlight of the night.
The Flinders Street Wonderland created by The Electric Canvas is something to behold. I was astonished by the transformation last year and this year was no exception.
“The expanded program parades works on a grand scale taking over multiple surfaces across whole streetscapes. Viewers of all ages will be captivated by these newly commissioned works showcasing animations projecting an awe-inspiring virtual circus.”
Apparently, this area was very crowded early in the evening but the numbers had thinned considerably by the time we got there at 11.30pm. I think it was a great idea to start at the outer reaches of the city and work our way towards the busier areas. We did experience some thronging crowds – particularly on Swanston Street where there were a lot of buskers – but it was never overwhelming.
My favourite ‘transformed’ building was the Forum Theatre, as I used to work there as an usher. Inside the building – which is amazing in its own right – there was also the Cabinet of Curiosities. This was “a fascinating multimedia exploration of the body via sculpture and video”, which included a huge beating heart in the lower level and a series of films in the upper level. There were warnings that the content wouldn’t be for everyone and we watched about a minute of a man being pierced by hooks before deciding the film wasn’t for us. Even though I’m a huge fan of gore (on shows like Supernatural) this was too gross for me 😉
It was approaching 1.00am before we wandered into the Alexandra Gardens in search of the Monuments. A friend had told us this was worth seeing and we weren’t disappointed.
“Internationally acclaimed projection artist Craig Walsh creates a haunting synergy between the human form, natural environment and the act of viewing. Moving images transform trees lining the Yarra River into sculptural portraits surveying the immediate surroundings.”
We collapsed onto the banks of the Yarra River and watched the faces, which were projected onto the trees on the opposite bank. It was fascinating as we observed the subtle movements of the faces; with one of them actually winking at us. It was wonderful.
We happened upon this installation by accident, as it was close to Monuments, and I really loved the forms and colours.
“With perhaps 20 billion life supporting planets in the Milky Way … what are the odds that we are alone? Installations of illuminated steel sculptures and spheres inspired by the solar system light up Melbourne parks and pathways on a galactic journey.”
The artworks were created from waste materials by SD Kinetic Studios and lit so they resembled planets. It was fun to wander amongst them in the park.
Our last stop was at the National Gallery of Victoria where there were more projections by The Electric Canvas on the external walls of the building. This time it was images of tattooed Melburnians with the portraits having been taken by Melbourne-based photographer Nicole Reed.
“Some would say that Melbourne’s love of street art makes it the Tattooed City. This love of decoration has spilled over onto the bodies of many of its inhabitants. Paying homage to the ever-increasing popularity of tattoos both flaunted and hidden, the exploration and beauty of this art form has been embraced by our citizens.”
We sat on the edge of the Gallery’s pools and watched the images flickering on the walls; reflecting into the waters below. It was 2.00am and we were spent.
White Night Melbourne is an amazing event. You could never hope to see everything that is on offer – even if you have the stamina to make it from 7.00pm until 7.00am – but it’s really a lot of fun to just wander around and enjoy the discoveries. I’ll definitely be back next year.
For more information on White Night Melbourne, click here.